Who Shall I Say Sent Me? The Name of God in Trinitarian Perspective

R. Kendall Soulen
Wesley Theological Seminary, Washington, D. C.


Few issues are so central to biblical faith and yet so perplexing as the Name of God. When the LORD accosted Moses at the burning bush and sent him to deliver the Israelites, Moses had the presence of mind to ask, "Who shall I say sent me?" (Exod 3:13, paraphrased). Some gods might have slain Moses on the spot, but the LORD evidently thought Moses' asked a sensible question, and so answered it. Ever since, the people of God have treasured God's name as the incomparable token of God's fidelity and power.

Still, the notion of God's name evokes not only our joy and wonder but also our curiosity and consternation. When Jacob begs the wrestling angel to declare his name, the angel rebuffs him, "Why do you ask my name?" (Gen 32:29). Even God's reply to Moses at the bush is anything but straightforward, consisting not in one answer but in three: "I am who I am", "I am," and "YHWH" (Exod 3:14-15). The world itself can scarcely contain all the rumination that this mysterious answer has provoked among Christians and Jews.1

Of course, it is right that God's name be for us both indispensable and unsettling. For according to the biblical witness, God's name brings both God's identity and God's uncircumscribable mystery into our midst. Please note: these two features of divine reality are not related in inverse proportion, like hot and cold, up and down, true and false. When God reveals God's identity, God's mystery is not diminished but intensified. Surely the Swiss theologian Emil Brunner was right when he said that the truly mysterious God is not the nameless One, but the One who has a name and makes it known.2 Two Questions and One Proposal

In this essay I want to make a proposal about how Christians should understand the name of God in light of their Trinitarian faith. At present there is a broad consensus among Christians that the doctrine of the Trinity expresses the distinctively Christian understanding of God's identity and mystery in a succinct and comprehensive way. But the name of the Trinity raises difficult questions that quickly take us past the limits of this consensus. Let me identify two such questions, one relatively familiar and one perhaps not so familiar.

In North America today there is a lively debate concerning whether or not the Trinity has a uniquely appropriate name at all. The immediate occasion of this debate is the vitality of feminist Christian theology and its concern to distinguish between authentic Christian discourse and its patriarchal distortion. Many feminists hold that the Trinity does not have an uniquely appropriate name, and hold that attempts to claim such a status for any name&—and especially for "the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit"—are misguided. Appealing to the apophatic and mystical traditions of Christian theology, they emphasize the necessity of naming God in many ways as the token of God's uncircumscribable mystery. 3 Other theologians argue in response that it belongs to the very character of the biblical God to have a uniquely appropriate name, and that this name is given to us in the context of the evangelical history as "the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit." They emphasize this name above all others as the unique token of God's reliable identity.4

A second question is less familiar and requires a bit more explanation. The question concerns the relation between the name of the Trinity and the name YHWH (the Holy Tetragrammaton), the most sacred name for God in Judaism and the most common name for God in Israel's Scriptures. The relation of these names goes to the heart of the ancient problem of how the church's trinitarian faith is related to Israel's faith in the One God. In recent decades, the topic has acquired fresh urgency as many Christian communions have acknowledged the importance of expressing Christian faith in ways that do not claim or imply the abrogation, obsolesence, or nullity of God's covenant with the Jewish people, i.e., in ways that are not supersessionist.5

In the patristic and medieval periods, the Tetragrammaton played little role in the Christian understanding of the name of the Triune God, largely because of linguistic obstacles. Late medieval, Reformation, and post-Reformation theologians rediscovered the Name in the form Jehovah and used it to designate the one divine essence common to the three persons of the Holy Trinity. In the modern period, however, Christian theologians and biblical scholars have regularly interpreted the relation between the Tetragrammaton and the Trinity in light of the progressive character of the economy of salvation. According to this view, the Tetragrammaton belonged to the preparatory stage of God's self-revelation, while "the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit" belongs to God's definitive self-revelation. This view has been frequently accompanied by an explicitly supersessionistic construal of the relationship between the church and the Jewish people. In addition, modern biblical scholarship has contributed to the widespread impression among Christians that the Tetragrammaton is obsolete by its transliteration of the Name as Yahweh, a hypothetical reconstruction of the Divine Name with no living basis in Jewish or Christian worship.

Christians today who are heirs of this history are faced with the following problem. Can Christians understand the name of the Trinity, and in particular, the relation between the name of the Trinity and the Tetragrammaton, in a manner that is faithful to the evangelical center of the church's faith, and yet that does not contribute to or imply a supersessionistic understanding of the church's relation to the Jewish people? If so, how might this be done?

At first glance, the two difficulties that I have identified might seem to have little to do with one another. In fact, however, I believe that both difficulties illuminate a more basic weakness in the Christian understanding of the name of the Trinity. So far as I can see, Christians have generally not attempted to understand the name of the Trinity in a fully trinitarian way. Instead, Christian theologians have tended to discuss the name of the Trinity in binary terms. So, for example, feminist theologians and their interlocutors today frame the debate about "the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit" in terms of the binary contrast between apophatic and kataphatic speech, or, alternatively, in terms of the contrast between natural and revealed knowledge of God, or between one name and no name, or one proper name and many metaphorical names.6 Similarly, pre-modern theologians framed the discussion of the Tetragrammaton and the Trinity in terms of the binary contrast between the one essence and the three persons, while the modern church has framed the discussion in terms of the binary contrast between the Old and New Testaments.

I want to suggest that our thinking about the name of the Trinity can be more adequate to the specifity and fulness of the scriptural witness—as well as more adequate to the identity and mystery of God—by being more genuinely trinitarian in character. The name of the Holy Trinity, my thesis runs, is one name in three inflections. According to the Oxford English Dictionary (2nd ed.), an inflection is "the modification of the form of a word" that expresses "the different grammatical relations into which it may enter;" it is also defined as "a modulation of the voice; in speaking or singing: a change in the pitch or tone of the voice." Bending and blending these definitions, I wish to suggest that the Name of the Trinity exists in three modifications of form that correspond to the three persons of the Trinity. As we shall see, each inflection identifies all three persons of the Trinity. But each inflection does so in a distinctive way, in a "modulation of the voice" characteristic of one person of the Holy Trinity and of the personal relations in which that person stands. Thus, there is an inflection of the Triune Name that corresponds to the first person, an inflection that corresponds to the second person, and an inflection that corresponds to the third person. For convenience' sake, I will call these the theological, christological, and pneumatological inflections of the triune Name.7 By the end of the essay, I hope to have shown that the name of the Trinity is a truly trinitarian name in a more radical sense than is ordinarily suspected: the triune Name consists in the unity of three inflections that are irreducibly distinct yet inseparably interrelated.

As the essay unfolds, I also hope to demonstrate something else. Surprising though it may seem, the key to a properly trinitarian understanding of the triune name will turn out to be a proper estimate of the centrality and abiding significance of the Tetragrammaton for Christian faith. As we shall see, the affirmation of Tetragrammaton's centrality and abiding significance is not an obstacle to a trinitarian understanding of the Name of God, but rather its enabling condition. This will not mean, of course, that Christians can or should expect Jews to give their assent to this account of God's Name. Indeed, I expect the proposal will in some respects serve to intensify awareness of abiding differences between Christians and Jews, and of the humanly irreconcilable character of their respective truth claims. But it is my hope that this account of the name of the Trinity can make a contribution toward an understanding of the Trinity that recontextualizes the abiding differences between Christians and Jews, so that Christians are less likely to understand their faith in supersessionistic ways.


The name of the Holy Trinity is one name in three inflexions. Let me begin with the theological inflexion, the one appropriate to the first person of the Trinity. As we shall, it belongs to the logic of this inflexion to begin with the personal proper name of the One to whom Jesus prays, and to proceed from there to tell us who Jesus and the Spirit are.

At the heart of the theological inflexion is the Holy Tetragrammaton, the four-lettered name that consists in the Hebrew consonants yod, heh, waw, and heh. As I noted at the start of this lecture, this is the third and final name that God gave to Moses at the burning bush, the name which finally resolves Moses' question, which Moses takes back to the Israelites, and which appears thousands of times in the subsequent Scriptures.

Without a doubt, the Tetragrammaton is a mysterious name, in part because it is surrounded by a host of unanswered—perhaps unanswerable—questions.8 What are the historical origins of the name? How was it originally pronounced? What is its etymological meaning, if any? How is it related to the other names that God gave to Moses at the bush, "I am who I am" and "I am"? But these questions are not the genuine mystery of the name. At most they are signs that point to the mystery, just as in the Gospel narratives the sign of the empty tomb points to the mystery of the resurrection. The genuine mystery of the Tetragrammaton is at once extremely simple and inexhaustibly deep: the Tetragrammaton is a proper name, a personal proper name, like Moses, or Jeremiah, or Mary Magdalene. The Jewish theologian Michael Wyschogrod has written, "The God of Israel has a proper name. There is no fact in Jewish theology more significant than this."9

A personal proper name is a very humble thing. Unlike a metaphor, or a class term, or a concept, a personal name ordinarily has little or no conventional meaning of its own. The role of a personal name is not to define or describe, but to identify. If all you know about me is my name, you know very little indeed. This is the truth in the well-known expression, "What's in a name?" Yet the very humility of a personal name is the source of an unexpected strength. Because a personal name has little conventional meaning of its own, it acquires its sense wholly from the personal history of its bearer. Over time, a personal proper name can become saturated with an intensity of connotation and resonance that exceeds any other form of human speech. The songwriter asks, "How do you find a word that means Maria?" The point is, we can't. For those who know and love her, the name "Maria" conveys a fullness of meaning that cannot be circumscribed by any other word or description, no matter how apt. The personal proper name is the linguistic token of the person in the fullness of their identity. That is why personal proper names have such astonishing power and dignity.

The Tetragrammaton is the personal proper name of the God of Israel. That is its special mystery. Other names for God in the Scriptures of Israel are not personal proper names but common nouns, appellations and epithets.10 The Tetragrammaton alone is the linguistic token by which the God of Israel distinguishes himself from all other gods, indeed, from everything else altogether. In Catherine M. LaCugna's words, it is God's "self-given name."11 Regardless of the name's etymology or historical origins, the sense of the Tetragrammaton in the Scriptures comes not from any conventional or generic meaning of the word itself, but solely from the incomparable uniqueness of God's personal identity. The psalmist shouts: "Who is like the LORD our God?" (Ps 113:5). That is the sense of the Tetragrammaton.

According to Maimonides, the Tetragrammaton belongs on God's side of the distinction between eternity and time: it betokens God's whoness in a manner that transcends God's relation to what God has created (see Guide for the Perplexed, 1, 60-62). Yet we may say that there is also a singular relationship between the Tetragrammaton and the people Israel. For it is in Israel that God makes himself known and available, not merely as the unnamed origin of all things, but according to his eternal identity and character. Indeed, we perhaps do not go too far astray of the biblical witness if we say that God's covenant with Israel is the outworking of God's desire to be known by name. For the sake of this name, God fashions a people out of the barren womb of Sarah and out of the chaos of bondage, so that by works of steadfast love and faithfulness, God might be glorified by name not only in the heavens but also by men and women on the earth. The biblical sense of the Tetragrammaton is thus finally also eschatological in orientation. Under the pressure of God's great promise, "I will sanctify my great name" (Ezek 26:23), the Tetragrammaton points irresistibly forward to the consummation of God's universal rule, when there will be an end to the state in which `all day long my name is despised,' and God's incomparable uniqueness will be fittingly honored by Israel, the nations and all creation.

The Tetragrammaton is thus the unique token of God's reliable identity and of God's uncircumscribable mystery. And Israel is the people uniquely marked out for service of this name, a service that it provides in part by the reserve that it practices in refusing to pronounce the name.

Now, for all of that, the Christian relationship to the Tetragrammaton has long been a conflicted one. On the one hand, Christians can scarcely deny its importance for the Old Testament and for Judaism. On the other hand, Christian theologians and biblical scholars, especially in the modern period, have regularly disputed the idea that the Tetragrammaton continues to be important for the New Testament and for Christian faith. Christians readily concede that the Tetragram is essential to Christian faith as a mark of who God was, but are much slower to concede that it remains relevant for who God is and will be. Two arguments are often given, one historical and one theological.

The historical argument begins from a well-known fact to which I have already briefly alluded. Sometime after their return from exile in Babylon, the Jews gradually restricted the circumstances in which the Tetragrammaton might licitly be pronounced. Out of reverence for God's name, they used reverential circumlocutions in place of the name itself, such as adonai in Judea or kyrios among Greek speaking Jews. Eventually, so the argument goes, knowledge of the Name was eclipsed by the circumlocutions themselves. By the time of the NT, the Tetragrammaton no longer served as the personal name of the God of Israel, certainly not among Greek speaking Jews. The theological argument simply adds that this development is a necessary for the growth of monotheism and a useful preparation for the Christian understanding of God. As Bruce Metzger, one of America's senior biblical scholars, wrote in his Preface to the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible, "The use of any proper name for the one and only God, as though there were other gods from whom the true God had to be distinguished, began to be discontinued in Judaism before the Christian era and is inappropriate for the universal faith of the Christian Church."12

The idea that the Tetragrammaton has become obsolete in the New Testament and for Christian faith generally is ripe for debunking. The idea rests not on a sound reading of the New Testament but rather on a theology that interprets the nature of God, the Scriptures, and the historical evidence in a supersessionistic way. Far from being moribund, the personal name of the God of Israel is alive and well in the NT. It has not been buried beneath paraphrastic speech, anymore than it is buried today among reverent Jews who intentionally refrain from pronouncing it. On the contrary, the Tetragrammaton directs the logic of the New Testament's identification of God the way magnetic north directs the needle of a compass. For those with ears to hear, the unspoken Tetragrammaton speaks on every page.13

Let us begin by considering how the Gospels' portray Jesus' own identification of God. We know, of course, that Jesus taught his followers to pray—first and before all else—for God's name to be hallowed. Still, we do not often consider what the first petition implies for the typical way in which Jesus identifies God. Still less do we notice how this petition models a reverence for God's name that saturates every aspect of Jesus' public teaching.

To understand the first petition of the Lord's prayer, we must notice that Jesus formulates it in the passive voice: "hallowed be thy name." The same is true of the third petition, "thy will be done." Even the second petition avoids directly referring to the agent of the desired action, "Thy kingdom come." Jesus' use of the passive is to be understood in the context of Jesus' very Jewish reverence for God and God's name.14 Jesus employs what is sometimes called the "divine passive" in order to call reverentially upon God in a manner that avoids the direct mention of God. Here the passive voice does not imply any ambiguity regarding who is being called upon to act. Quite the contrary. In the context of Israel's piety for the Name, Jesus' reverential use of the passive voice actually serves to specify—indirectly but unmistakably—the exact identity of the first petition's logical agent: the God whose name is the Tetragrammaton.15 The form of the first petition thus corresponds to and underscores its content. The petition amounts to a plea that YHWH now act to glorify the name that Israel honors and loves, in accord with God's own ancient promise, "Then you shall know that I am the LORD!" (Ex 16:2; Jer 24:7; Ezek 36:11 etc.). The promise means: "The day will come when I, the LORD, will display the incomparable glory of who I am in the works that I have done, my works of covenant fidelity to Israel and of mercy toward the nations." When Jesus instructs his followers to pray, "Hallowed be thy name!" he is teaching them to say, "LORD, let this be so now! Make your name great!"

Once we have learned to recognize Jesus' use of the passive voice, we see that it runs through Jesus' speech like a golden thread, linking together every aspect of his teaching and ministry, and setting them all in relation to the God whose name is the Tetragrammaton:

"Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted" Mat. 5:4); "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God" (v.9); "Do not judge, so that you may not be judged" (Mat. 7:1); "Do not fear. Only believe, and she will be saved" (Luke 8:50); "Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven" (Mt. 9:2), "all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted"(Luke 18:14); "I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to the other cities also; for I was sent for this purpose" (Luke 4:43); "But after I am raised up, I will go ahead of you to Galilee" (Mt. 26:32). Finally, consider what is perhaps the most astonishing divine passive of them all: "And Jesus came and said to them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me" (Mt. 28:18). It is difficult to know wherein lies the greater provocation: in the claim that the Ancient of Days has vested all authority in a human slain and risen, or that the one so vested continues to employ the idiom of reverential deference for the Ancient of Days.

Ignatius of Antioch once wrote, "Whoever has the word of Jesus for a true possession can also hear his silence"16 The silence of Jesus is the room he opens for God's name to be glorified in him. The countless divine passives that trace the contours of Jesus' ministry—from his sending to his glorification—are the audible tokens of the great divine passive at the heart of Jesus' prayer: "Hallowed be thy name!"

So, the unspoken Tetragrammaton speaks. It speaks through paraphrastic language to identify by name the One to whom Jesus prays: Tetragrammaton, the Holy One of Israel. Perhaps the most staggering instance of this comes from John the Seer, who knows that Christians expect a Christian letter to begin, "Grace and peace to you from God our Father...." John wants to remind his listeners just who this Father is, so he writes "Grace and peace to you from he who is and who was and who is to come" (Rev. 1:4). This formula alludes to the Tetragrammaton down to the details of its aberrant grammar, and is the paraphrastic equivalent of a slap in the face.17

But notice. The NT writers take these very forms of paraphrastic speech that serve uniquely to identify the one to whom Jesus prays, and they use them—they exploit their linguistic volatility—to identify Jesus and the Spirit. That is the theological inflexion of the Triune Name. The inflexion begins with the personal proper name of the one to whom Jesus prays, and proceeds from there to tell us who Jesus and the Spirit are.

The NT provides many clues that identify the Holy Spirit with reference to the Tetragrammaton. Some of these are relatively well known: the very phrase "Holy Spirit" derives from a reverential circumlocution, "the Spirit of Holiness," an echo of which can still be heard in Paul's salutation in Romans: Jesus Christ, "designated Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead" (Rom 1:4). But other clues are often hidden from us by translation. Consider the story in which Peter remonstrates Sapphira and Ananias for deceitfully withholding money from the saints. Peter asks, "How is it that you have agreed together to put the Spirit of Lord to the test?" (Acts 5:9). The Greek makes clear, by omitting the definite article, that `Lord' is not just an honorific title for God but a veiled reference to God's personal proper name, the Holy Tetragrammaton.18 Sapphira falls down dead on the spot.

Most of all, the NT writers exploit the volatility of paraphrastic speech in order to convey the mind-boggling truth about Jesus. They do so in an astonishing variety of creative and sophisticated ways. Sometimes they put familiar forms of paraphrastic speech to startling new uses, as in Phil. 2:5-11, which uses the conventional surrogate kyrios to make the utterly unconventional point that "the name above every name" now resides in the humiliated and exalted Jesus.19 Sometimes they create entirely new but unmistakable forms of paraphrastic speech. I have already mentioned the unique way in which John the Seer replaces the ordinary "God the Father" with an elaborate allusion to the Tetragrammaton (Rev. 1:4). Just as strikingly, John over the course of the letter breaks apart the elements of this and other similar allusions and uses the resulting elements to refer to Jesus Christ. The greeting thereby sets the stage for Revelation's extremely high christology, according to which the coming of the Ancient of Days takes place in the advent of the Jesus.20 Jesus is quite literally the one who comes "in the name of the Lord!"21

So much Bible, so little time. The point is this: the NT uses an astonishing array of paraphrastic language to identify the one to whom Jesus prays as YHWH, the God of Israel, and in order to include Jesus and the Spirit in the identity of this one God.22 As Richard Bauckham shows, NT writers use this pattern of inclusion in order to articulate the highest conceivable christology and pneumatology. What bears emphasizing is that this pattern does not result in the obliteration of the distinctions among the persons. On the contrary, the pattern of inclusion we have described represents a distinctive NT idiom that expresses the distinctiveness of the persons in terms of the giving, receiving, and illumination of the Sacred Name. Time and again, it is precisely by differentiating himself from the one who bears the Name that Jesus allows himself to be included in the event of its glorification. That is the theological inflexion of the Triune Name. In passing, it is worth emphasizing that the theological inflexion of the Triune Name requires Christian to cultivate the capacity to hear between the lines. For this reason, Christians should give up the misguided custom of calling God "Yahweh." The term is a scholarly conjecture that is offensive to reverent Jews and antithetical to the texture of the NT's own witness. Like Jews, like Jesus, and like the writers of the New Testament, Christians need to "lift up" the unspoken Tetragrammaton in a manner that allows it to speak in its own distinctive voice.23


The second inflexion of the Triune name is the familiar formula "The Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit."24 This is what I will call the christological inflexion, the inflexion most naturally appropriated to the second person of the Trinity, Jesus Christ. The christological inflexion names or identifies all three persons of the Trinity, but from a perspective that accords centrality to the Second Person of the Trinity. A token of the Son-centered character of this inflexion is the simple but impressive fact that according to Matthew's Gospel it is the risen Lord himself who utters this name when commissioning the disciples, now apostles (Mt. 28:19).

As I noted, discussion of "the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit" is divided today between those who regard the name as one among many possible metaphors for the Triune God for which equivalent substitutes can and should be found, and those who argue that it is the proper name of the Triune God, standing alone in a class by itself. In my view, neither position is sufficiently attentive to the full trinitarian texture of the baptismal formula, which entails elements of both irreducible distinctiveness and inseparable relatedness. Feminist proponents of the first position tend, in my estimation, to minimize or overlook the fact that the christological inflexion is irreducibly distinct in itself, having no equivalent substitute. Yet even proponents of the second position—who recognize the irreducible distinctiveness of the baptismal name—overlook the fact that the christological inflexion is also inseparably related to other, equally basic, inflexions of the Triune name. Let us examine both aspects of the christological inflexion.

The christological inflexion of the Triune name is irreducibly distinct in itself, incapable of equivalent substitution by any other form of expression. How so? Let me briefly mention two points.

First, "the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit" is irreducibly distinct by virtue of the simple but inescapable fact that Christians are commanded to baptize in this name by the risen Lord. Furthermore, and as befits a formula intended for liturgical use, the phrase identifies the persons of the Trinity in a simple, fixed, and pronounceable form. Note that this latter characteristic in particular distinguishes the christological inflexion from the theological inflexion that we just discussed. As we saw, the theological inflexion is fecund, generative. It has a fixed center but not a fixed form of expression: the unspoken Tetragrammaton speaks through a variety of pious circumlocutions. In contrast, the baptismal inflexion is synthetic: it gathers together many forms of Jesus' speech—my Father, our Father, Son of Man, Son of God, Spirit of the Father, etc—and stabilizes them in a single, coordinated phrase. If the theological inflexion glows like a hidden fire through the billowing clouds of the everchanging coverings, the christological inflexion shines like Jesus' brilliant raiment on the Mt. of Transfiguration, bringing the church's fragmentary knowledge of the mystery of Jesus, God, and the Spirit to brilliant, focused expression. Note, too, if you will, that one can detect a certain order or taxis between these two idioms. The theological inflexion's sheer fecundity of periphrastic expression is the source—I am tempted to say the unoriginate origin—of much of the linguistic wealth (e.g., "my heavenly Father," "Holy Spirit") which the christological inflexion brings to a delimited, unified focus.

Second, the christological inflexion of the Triune name is irreducibly distinct because it expresses the distinction and mutuality of the first two persons of the Trinity in terms of relationship of origin, and because it does so in language that according to the Gospels' witness is characteristic of Jesus' own self-designation and address to God. The terms "Father" and "Son" make the point that God and Christ are distinguishable identities by virtue of their essential relatedness to one another. Each is identified in terms of the other. In this case, to be is to be related.

Taken together, these two points amply justify the important place that the ecumenical church has accorded the baptismal name in its liturgical practice and dogmatic traditions. Yet now I wish to direct our attention to the other side of the equation, to the proposition that the christological inflexion of the Triune name is not only irreducibly distinct, but also inseparably related to two other equally basic inflexions of the Triune name. In particular, I wish to explore the proposition that the christological inflexion serves as a name that identifies the three persons of the Triune God only by virtue of its inseparable connection to the theological inflexion, which identifies the same three persons in a different idiom centered on the Holy Tetragrammaton.

Let me begin with an obvious point. "Father," "son," and "spirit" are all common nouns that can be predicated of many subjects. The christological inflexion, however, particularizes these common nouns by the use of the definite article. It speaks not (as Christians often but misleadingly say) of "Father, Son, and Holy Spirit," but of "the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit." The definite article serves to particularize the generic nouns, restricting their application from the many to the one. As a result, the phrase "the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit" comes in practice to function like a personal proper name, as indeed the baptismal liturgy itself suggests, "I baptize you in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit."25

In my view, this particularization is the key for deciding whether the use of the baptismal formula necessarily underwrites patriarchal ideas and social relations. Granted, Christians should want to distinguish between authentic evangelical discourse and its patriarchal distortion. But to speak of "the Father" is to pick out a particular identity within a given context, so that the disputed question properly turns on the relationship of this particular Father to patriarchy, not on the generic meaning of the word "father." When Jesus in prayer calls out "Father!" the sense of the word is supplied by the character of the One who sent him and raised him from the dead. This is why Jesus can say, "If you have seen me, you have seen the Father." But is it possible to find even a single instance in the entire New Testament where Jesus appeals to the authority of this Father to underwrite male privilege? Is not the opposite much rather the case? Whatever may be the case with other fathers or fatherhood in general, this Father is implacably opposed to every diminution of women for the sake of male privilege.26

However, we must go on and consider a further peculiarity of the definite article. The power of the definite article to particularize a common noun is dependent on context, apart from which its reference remains ambiguous. If my wife says to me, "Please go get the mail," I understand she means the mail in our mailbox, not our neighbors'. But if I overheard the same request on a crowded street, I would have no idea how to fulfill the request. In the case of common nouns that designate persons, such as "mother" or "prophet," the framework of identification usually terminates in a personal proper name, such as Hannah or Elijah or Mohammed. In an analogous way, I would argue, even "the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit" depends ultimately for its identifying power on a more complete framework of identification that terminates finally in a personal proper name. But what is the personal proper name that backs up "the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit," by virtue of which it is enabled to serve as a name in the context, for example, of the baptismal liturgy? Is it, as Christians are no doubt inclined to suggest, the name "Jesus Christ"? But the Marcionites also worshipped "the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit," and backed up their worship by appeal to the name of Jesus Christ. Nevertheless, the church deemed their worship heretical. Moreover, the name Jesus Christ belongs to the Second Person of the Trinity by virtue of God's eternal decrees with respect to time, while the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit belongs to God even irrespective of those decrees. Hence there must be some other personal proper name that backs up the baptismal name of the Trinity. And that name, it seems to me, can only be the Holy Tetragrammaton.

Consider the texture of the New Testament witness. When we look carefully, we discover time and time again that the terms "Father" or "Son" or "Spirit" or any combination of these regularly appear intertwined and side-by-side with language that orbits around the Tetragrammaton. Moreover, we see that these two idioms serve mutually to interpret the identity of the Trinitarian persons with respect to all three vectors of time, past, present, and future. "Our Father in heaven, hallowed be thy name" is not a redundant expression, as though "Father" were now the name of God tout court. Rather, the words point to two mutually interpreting and indispensable poles of Jesus' identification of God.27 A similar pattern of intertwining is found in Phil. 2., where—in a dramatic double movement—Christ has received "the name that is above every name," so that he might receive the acclamation of all creation "to the glory of God the Father."28 The logic of Phil. 2 is mirrored in a strikingly exact way throughout the Gospel of John, where Son's mission from and unity with the Father is interpreted at the climax of the Gospel in terms of the Son's revelation of the Father's name (John 17), a revelation that Raymond Brown—rightly in my view—associates with Jesus' "I am" statements, which allude unmistakably to the unspoken Tetragrammaton. But whereas the intertwining idioms of Phil. 2 direct our gaze to the ultimate future, those of the Gospel of John direct our gaze to the ultimate origin: "Before Abraham was, I am." Or recall again the Book of Revelation's over-the-top improvisation on a typical Christian letter, where instead of the expected "God the Father" we are met by "He who is and who was and who is to come," again an allusion to the Sacred Tetragrammaton (by way of Ex. 3:14) that pounds now on all three keyboards of time. Finally, Dale C. Allison suggests that even the baptismal formula of Matthew 28:19 includes an allusion to the Tetragrammaton, inasmuch as "the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit" refers not epexegetically to "the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit," but allusively and reverentially to the unspoken Tetragrammaton, that is, the name which belongs to the Father and which the Father gives to the Son and whose praise is evoked by the Holy Spirit.29

My claim, then, is that "the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit" stands in inseparable relation with another, equally basic inflexion of the Triune name, an inflexion centered in the giving, the receiving, and the illumination of the Holy Tetragrammaton. To cast further light on this claim, permit me a brief digression on the topic of informative identity statements. An informative identity statement is a statement that creates new insight by conjoining two proper names for the same referent. The textbook example is "the evening star is the morning star," but more familiar examples include "Clark Kent is Superman," "Mark Twain is Samuel Longhorn Clemens," or "Mt. McKinley is Denali." The puzzle about informative identity statements is that they contradict the standard philosophical theory about proper names, according to which proper names differ from others forms of speech because they serve simply to point to or pick out that which they name. Beyond this, so the standard theory goes, a proper name has no other meaning it all. To put it technically, a proper name has denotation but not connotation, reference but not sense. The difficulty is that if the standard theory were correct, then it would seem that informative identity statements could never be informative. That is, "Clark Kent is Superman" would tells us no more than "Clark Kent is Clark Kent," since both names serve merely to pick out one and the same person. Yet we can easily imagine circumstances in which a person might be astonished to discover that Clark Kent is Superman. How can this be?

The philosopher Gottlob Frege addressed this puzzle by suggesting that proper names do after all have sense (Sinn) in addition to reference. According to Frege, the primary role of proper names is to pick out the object they name, but in doing so they also determine the object from a given perspective.

In the statement, `The evening star is the morning star,' the two names have the same referent but different senses. The sense provides the mode of presentation (die Art des Gegebenseins) of the object; the object is, as it were, illuminated from one side (einseitig beleuchtet) by the sense of the expression; and it is because the two expressions have different senses that the statement can convey factual information to us.30

For Frege, statements that join two proper names for the same object are not necessarily trivial or tautologous. Indeed, according to Frege, "the existence of different names for the same content is the very heart of the matter if each is associated with a different way of determining the content."31

Frege's analysis helps us understand why it is important for Christians to recognize that—according to the texture of the biblical witness—the Name of the Triune God exists in two different but equally basic inflexions. The two inflexions identify the same Triune reality, but from different perspectives. 32 The theological inflexion, centered in the Tetragrammaton, serves to identify Jesus with respect to the God of Israel. The christological inflexion, centered in the Son, serves to identify the God of Israel with reference to Jesus.33 The two inflexions together, in their difference and mutual relation, identify the One to whom Jesus prays, and, by extension, Jesus himself, and the Spirit by whom he lives and which he shares. This mutuality, I hasten to add, has suggestive implications for how Christians understand the economy of salvation with respect to God's election of the people Israel. The Tetragrammaton enters the New Testament as a name that is already saturated, drenched with sense, and at the center of this sense, so to speak, is Adoshem's covenant with Israel. Hence it is all but impossible to evoke this name without also evoking this covenant and this people, whether implicitly or explicitly. To identify Jesus with respect to this name is also inevitably to identify him with respect to this people and their promised future. Consider this example. A striking feature of Paul's letters is that he often ascribes LXX passages containing the Tetragrammaton to Christ (cf. Rom 14:11; 1 Cor 1:31; 10:26, etc.). Nevertheless, David B. Capes observes that when Paul comes to discuss the relationship of Jews and Gentiles, he frequently ascribes the relevant LXX passages to God (Rom 9:27, 29 15:9,11).34 If the first practice indicates Paul's conviction that the Scripture's promises about the Lord are now coming to pass in Christ (cf. Rom 10:13!), the second practice indicates that this coming-to-pass still transpires within the context of God's still unfolding covenant with Israel (cf. esp. Rom 15:9, 11). It is the two practices together that enact "the heart of the matter."

Conversely, Frege's analysis helps us to understand what goes wrong when Christians read the biblical witness in a manner that permits the theological inflexion of the Triune Name to drop out of consideration or awareness. In that case, God's identity is illuminated in a one-sided way (einseitig beleuchtet.) We have already touched on the most extreme example of this, namely, the Marcionites who worshiped the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, but refused to worship the God of Israel. More commonly, however, Christians read the New Testament as though God's identity as Adoshem were merely a preliminary stage of God's self-revelation on the way to God's self-revelation as "Father." Consider two examples:

The name "Father" is the best calculated to manifest the novelty of the God of Jesus, as compared not only with the God of the Greeks but with the God of the Jews. Compared with the God of Israel the God of Jesus represents a revolution in so far as God is the God of grace before being the God of the law.35


Everything that Christ taught, everything that makes the NT new, and better than the Old, everything that is distinctively Christian as opposed to merely Jewish, is summed up in the knowledge of the Fatherhood of God. "Father" is the Christian name of God.36

In 1933 Gerhard Kittel argued along such lines when he wrote that Jesus' use of abba "far surpasses any possibilities of intimacy assumed in Judaism" and introduces "something which is wholly new."37 Kittel's claim was partly taken up by Joachim Jeremias, and subsequently many biblical scholars and theologians have sought to make Jesus' experience of god as abba the basis of his unique self-understanding, messianic vocation, and divine sonship.38 Yet when Christians read the New Testament through this lens, the result is a systematic distortion of the biblical witness, in which what is perceived to be "distinctively Christian" is lifted up at the cost of what is "merely Jewish" in Christianity.

Finally, I would like to note one final implication that follows from the proposal that the Tetragrammaton and "the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit" identify the same God after the fashion of an "informative identity statement." This view helps to clarify how Jews and Christians can worship the same God while nevertheless differing on whether God is Triune.39 Christians and Jews can worship the same God because they both agree that the Tetragrammaton truly names the One eternal God, even while they disagree about whether the One God eternally gives, receives, and glorifies this name in the fellowship of three eternal persons.

To summarize, "the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit" is not merely one among many possible metaphors for God, but neither is it the proper name of Triune God. Rather, it is the second of three inflexions of the Triune Name, one that is indispensable in its own right yet one that must be held in balance with two other equally indispensable inflexions of the Triune name. The theological and christological inflexions interpret each other mutually, not only with respect to who God was, but who God is and will be. The illumination that arises from the conjunction of the two inflexions in and through the medium of the evangelical history is not a passing stage of the Christian witness, but belongs permanently to "the heart of the matter."


The third and final inflexion of the Triune name is what I will call the pneumatological inflexion, the inflexion most naturally appropriated to the third person of the Trinity. The pneumatological inflexion also provides a way in which to designate all three persons of the Trinity, but it does so in a voice and idiom that are characteristic of the Holy Spirit.

In the biblical narratives, the Holy Spirit astonishes us by the uncanny way in which it unites constancy and variety. The Holy Spirit comes always from the living God bearing the gift of new life, yet it does so in an endless variety of ways. It manifests its presence and power now as a dove descending, now as the sound of wind roaring, now as tongues of fire dancing, now as the gift of speech in ecstasy. So too the pneumatological inflexion of the Triune Name unites constancy and variety in the church's naming of the Triune God. It has no fixed vocabulary of its own, but enlists general forms of speech and possibilities of speech present in the discourse of the peoples, tribes, and nations, and gives them a new and unique imprint in service of the gospel.

On the one hand, it has a constant theme: the mystery of God's eternal identity as manifested in God's covenant with Israel irrevocably confirmed in the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is important to stress that the pneumatological inflexion does not ignore or bypass the inflexions we have already discussed, but pours forth from them as their Great Expositor and Interpreter. In addition, the pneumatological inflexion has a constant goal: to draw us ever more deeply into knowledge and vital piety, and thereby to make us more suitable vessels of the glory of God's name. Yet on the other hand, the pneumatological inflexion traces an unpredictable variety of paths from source to goal. The pneumatological inflexion is not only the Great Expositor and Interpreter, but also the Great Improviser.

The pneumatological inflexion has roots that go deep into the Scriptures of Israel. Already the prophets of Israel sought to exposit or interpret God's unique identity by enlisting generic forms of speech. Consider one of Israel's most common refrains: "The LORD is God!" Here "LORD," of course, stands for the Tetragrammaton, the personal name of the One who accosted Moses at the bush. But the word for God, Elohim, stems from a generic term for the divine that was common in the ancient Near East. It is a class term that could be and was applied to a variety of gods and goddesses, and not to Israel's god only. Thus when the prophets declared, "The LORD is God!" they staked a claim and took a risk. They staked the claim that the generic term Elohim receives its true and proper sense from the name, character, and promises of Israel's God, and Israel's God alone. But they also took the risk that the generic term was a suitable vessel for bringing the LORD's unique identity to the nations.

Over two millennia of Christian tradition, the pneumatological inflexion has enlisted a staggering variety of words and forms of speech to designate the persons of the Triune God. Some of these names have acquired a more or less permanent place in the language of the ecumenical church. Examples include the NT's own designations of Christ as "Word" and as "Wisdom," or the technical vocabulary that the ancient church devised in order to clarify its trinitarian faith, such as trinity, person and substance in the West, and hypostasis and ousia in the East. These familiar examples of the pneumatological inflexion are important not because they exhaust the possibilities of pneumatological speech, but because they offer us paradigmatic examples of how such speech operates. They have the power to teach us again and again the amount of care and discernment that is needed in order to rightly practice the kind of expository improvisation that the pneumatological inflexion requires. As any jazz musician can tell you, faithful improvisation is the greatest of all musical skills, a skill that for most requires years of apprenticeship in the school of the masters. Above all, the pneumatological inflexion is not simply a license that says anything goes. The same prophets that dared to say, "The LORD is God!" refused to say, "The LORD is Ba'al," even though Ba'al was also a generic or class term that meaning "Master." The prophets discerned that Elohim possessed possibilities that Ba'al could not, probably because the sense of the latter term had come to be determined too completely by the identity of a competing deity.

Yet by the nature of the case, the pneumatological inflexion of the Triune demands to be exercised afresh in every time and place. The theologian Abhishiktananda, writing as a Christian in Hindu context, speaks of the persons of the Holy Trinity as Sat, Cit, and Ananda, which translates roughly as "Source and ground of all being," "the divine self-consciousness," and "expression of love within the godhead which brings being and consciousness into the bliss of love."40 We find other examples of the pneumatological inflexion in the writings of contemporary feminist theologians. The Roman Catholic feminist Elizabeth Johnson speaks of Unoriginate Love, Love from Love, Mutual Love. While the church must test the adequacy of these and other proposals, I humbly submit that they cannot be ruled out of court. At the end of the day, the pneumatological inflexion of the Triune Name cannot be fixed in a single form of speech, nor indeed in any fixed set of already existing names. It is specific task is to express the inexhaustible fullness of the mystery of the one God, a fullness for which no single fixed form of expression is the uniquely adequate token. This is kernel of truth in the apophatic and mystical traditions of Christian thought that affirm that the deity of God is nameless and that therefore God must be praised with many names.41 This statement summarizes a crucial aspect of the pneumatological inflexion, even though it does not provide a sufficient account of the name of the Triune God as a whole.


The name of the Triune God is one name in three inflexions. Like the persons of the Holy Trinity, these three inflexions of the Triune Name are interrelated but not interchangeable. None can be replaced by another without loss; none can be ignored without peril. Each inflexion opens up an indispensable—but not independent—perspective on the whole mystery of Holy Trinity. Yet there is a real sense in which the church's trinitarian faith—in all its fullness and distinctiveness—neither adds nor subtracts one jot or tittle from the centrality and uniqueness of the personal proper name of the God of Israel, the Sacred Tetragrammaton. It simply unfolds that Name in a threefold way, three different times, in a way that is mandated for the church by the gospel of Jesus Christ. In closing, I return to a claim I made at the start of this lecture: the affirmation of the centrality and abiding significance of the Tetragrammaton is not an obstacle to a trinitarian understanding of God's name, but rather its enabling condition.


1This essay is a revised version of a lecture delivered at "Jews and Christians, People of God, a Theological Conference of the Center for Catholic and Evangelical Theology," Augsburg College, June 2001. It was published in Robert W. Jenson and Carl E. Braaten, Jews and Christians: People of God (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2003).

2 Emil Brunner, The Christian Doctrine of God (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1950), 119.

3 An important statement of this position can be found in Elizabeth A. Johnson, She Who Is: the Mystery of God in Feminist Theological Discourse (New York: Crossroad, 1993). See also Gail Ramshaw, God beyond Gender (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1995); Ruth C. Duck, Gender and the Name of God: Trinitarian Baptismal Formula (New York: The Pilgrim Press, 1991).

4 The thesis that "the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit" is the proper name of the triune God was proposed by Robert W. Jenson, The Triune Identity: God according to the Gospel (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1982), 1-20, and has since been taken up by others; cf. the essays in Alvin F. Kimel, Jr., ed. Speaking the Christian God: the Holy Trinity and the Challenges of Feminism ed. A. Kimel, Jr. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1991), 188-208.

5 I attempt to give a more extended definition and analysis of supersessionism in the Christian tradition, and a proposal for countering it, in my book The God of Israel and Christian Theology (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1996). For a survey of issues raised for Christians by the Tetragrammaton, and a proposal for understanding its significance in a trinitarian context, see Christopher Seitz "Handing Over the Name: Christian Reflection on the Divine Name YHWH" in Trinity, Time, and Church, ed. Colin Gunton (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2000), 23-41.

6 Not coincidentally perhaps, the debate is "as oppositional as any," as Mary McClintock Fulkerson notes. For a very different proposal about how to move beyond the oppositions see her essay, "Grace, Christian Controversy, and Tolerable Falsehoods" in Grace upon Grace (Nashville: Abingdon, 1999), 231-253.

7 I have chosen to label the three inflections in a manner that follows the "economic" usage of the NT rather than that of formal Trinitarian doctrine. My aim is to link each inflection to the appropriate person in a way that is clear but that avoids privileging or prejudging the content of the three inflections themselves. In an important sense, all three inflections are "theological," since all three concern persons who are equally eternal and divine. The NT, however, most commonly uses "theos" to designate the first person of the Trinity, and here I am following NT usage (see Karl Rahner, "Theos in the New Testament" in Theological Investigations, vol. 1 (London: Darton, Longman, and Todd, 1963), 79-148. Similarly, "christological" is arguably not a trinitarian term at all in the strict sense, since it is usually thought not to apply to the eternal identity of the second person distinct from the economy of salvation. Nevertheless, I use it in this context because it clearly picks out the second person of the Trinity. The labels are terms of convenience only and are not intended to be pushed too hard.

8 Martin Rose, Yahwe: zum Streit um den alttestamentlichen Gottesnamen (Zürich: Theologischer Verlag Zürich, 1978.

9 Wyschogrod, The Body of Faith: God in the people Israel (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1989), 91. Among Christian scholars, Walter Zimmerli in particular has drawn attention to the centrality of the personal name for Israel's faith, cf. Walter Zimmerli, Old Testament Theology in Outline (Atlanta: John Knox Press, 1978).

10 On the special place of the name YHWH and its relation to other names of God, see T. N. D. Mettinger, In Search of God (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1987).

11 LaCugna, God for Us: The Trinity and the Christian Life (New York: HarperCollins, 1991), 302.

12 Bruce M. Metzger, "To the Reader" The New Revised Standard Version, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Church of Christ in the United States of America (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, Inc., 1990).

13 I borrow the metaphor from the Sean M. McDonough, YHWH at Patmos: Rev. 1:4 in its Hellenistic and Early Jewish Setting (Tübingen: J. C. B. Mohr, 1999), 116. McDonough demonstrates the vitality of the Tetragrammaton in the Second-Temple period and its importance for understanding Rev. 1:4 and other NT tests including Revelation, Philippians, and John. A page-by-page inventory of all the NT's forms of piety for the Name can be found in Julius Boehmer, Die neutestamenliche Gottesscheu und die ersten drei Bitten des Vaterunsers (Halle: 1917). Boehmer wrote, "The New Testament is saturated with Jewish piety for the Name and identity of God, though the exegetes have scarcely ever taken notice of it." Interestingly, while Boehmer drew attention to the phenomenon, he assigned it only negative significance for modern Christian practice. For him it was the eggshell of ancient Jewish piety that Christians should become aware of in order to relinquish. Besides McDonough, contemporary scholars drawing attention to the importance of a theology of the Divine Name for the NT witness include Richard Bauckham, Christopher Seitz, and C. Kavin Rowe.

14 On the "divine passive," see Gustaf Dalman The Words of Jesus (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1909), 224-24; Joachim Jeremias, New Testament Theology: the Proclamation of Jesus (New York: Scribner's, 1971), 10-14. Jeremias considers that the "`divine passive' occurs round about 100 times in the saying of Jesus' alone.

15 See McDonough, YHWH at Patmos, chap. 2; C. Seitz, "The Divine Name in Christian Scripture" in Word without End (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1997); Scott McKnight, A New Vision for Israel: the Teachings of Jesus in National Context (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1999), chap. 1.

16 Ignatius, Epistle to the Ephesians 15:2.

17 See McDonough, YHWH at Patmos, chap. 4.

18 Carl Judson Davis points out that in a number of instances New Testament writers use kyrios (lord) in a manner that is grammatically explicable only if the word functions as a proper name. According to the grammatical rule known as the Canon of Apollonius, two nouns in regimen should both have the definite article or both lack it. An exception occurs, however, when the second noun is a proper name, in which case the second article may be omitted. Davis convincingly demonstrates that when Luke, for example, speaks of "the way of lord," he is using a convention that indicates that kyrios is a surrogate for God's name. C. J. Davis, The Name and Way of the Lord (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1996), 93.

19 According to Richard Bauckham, it is "inconceivable" that a Jewish writer could use this phrase for a name other than God's own unique name, YHWH. See R. Bauckham, "The Worship of Jesus in Philippians 2:9-11' in R. P. Martin, Brian J. Dodd, ed. Where Christology Began: Essays on Philippians 2 (Westminster/John Knox Press, 1998). For survey of views, see Ralph P. Martin, Carmen Christi: Philippians 2:5-11 in Recent Interpretation and in the Setting of Early Christian Worship Rev. Ed. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1983).

20 See McDonough, YHWH at Patmos, chap. 4.

21 See the splendid discussion in Richard Bauckham, The Theology of the Book of Revelation (Cambridge University Press, 1993).

22 I borrow the language from Richard Bauckham, God Crucified: Monotheism and Christology in the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998), 27 and passim. In this significant work, Bauckham advances the thesis "that the highest possible Christology, the inclusion of Jesus in the unique divine identity, was central to the faith of the early church even before any of the NT writings were written, since it appears in all of them" (27).

23 Franz Rosenzweig, the great Jewish theologian and philosopher, hated the Protestant "scientific" use of Yahweh, which he objected too on both scientific and religious grounds. See Rosenzweig, "The Eternal: Mendelssohn and the Name of God" in Martin Buber and Franz Rosenzweig, Scripture and Translation, Bloomington: Indiana University, 1994). For a similar viewpoint, see also Jon Levenson, The Hebrew Bible, the Old Testament, and Historical Criticism (Nashville: Westminster/John Knox Press, 1993).

24 For another recent meditation on the significance of this name, see Katherine Sonderegger, "On the Holy Name of God," Theology Today 58:3 (October 2001), 384-398.

25 One finds a similar phenomenon in the NT's use of "Christ," which appears frequently enough as a title or common noun (as in Peter's confession), but which through its application to Jesus comes also to serve as a personal name (as frequently in Paul's letters).

26 For a further development of this point, see Roberta C. Bondi "Praying `Our Father' and Formation in Love" in Trinity, Community, and Power ed. by M. Douglas Meeks (Nashville: Kingswood Books, 2000). The biblical data pertaining to the NT's use of "Father" for God is ably set forth by Marianne Meye Thompson, The Promise of the Father (Westminster/John Knox Press, 2000).

27 As Adelheid Ruck-Schröder notes, "The address to God as Father is immediately followed by the petition for the hallowing of God's name. This shows that the one who prays this prayer practices a hallowing of God's name, in that he or she addresses God with "Father" rather than with God's unspoken Name. For Jesus such reserve before the Tetragrammaton may be presupposed." Cf. Adelheid Ruck-Schröder, Der Name Gottes und der Name Jesu: eine neutestamentilche Studie (Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener Verlag, 1999), 149-150. The author goes on to observe that Christian scholarship tends to be too preoccupied with Jesus' use of "Father" while neglecting his reverence for the Name.

28 In my view, Phil. 2 is not most naturally read to imply that the Father gives the Name away in such a fashion as to dispossess himself of it, as Christopher Seitz seems to imply when he speaks of a "the loss of the divine name" ("Handing Over the Name," p. 39-40),. As the 19th cent. Christian novelist George McDonald wrote, "A name is one of those things one can give away and keep all the same." The Princess and the Goblin (New York: Everyman's Library Children's Classics, Alfred A. Knopf, 1993 <1871>). Rather, in Phil. 2 the Father gives away the Sacred Name so that it may be glorified as his in another (cf. John 17:11 "I protected them in your name that you have given me"). Jesus does not gain the name by impoverishing another ("a robbery"), but receives it for the glory of another. Indeed, this deference is what makes him Son and Lord.

29 Dale C. Allison, The Sermon on the Mount (New York: Crossroad Publishing Company, 1999).

30 John Searle, "Proper Names and Description" in The Encyclopedia of Philosophy, vol. 6 (McMillan Publishing Co., 1967).

31 Frege, Begriffschrift, Para. 8. Italics added. Frege's analysis is widely thought to have been fatally critiqued by Saul Kripke, who reaffirms a version of the traditional view according to which proper names are "rigid signifiers," i.e., pointers that have reference but not sense. But so far as I can seen, Kripke's analysis does not finally refute the notion that proper names have "sense," but only a particular account of how this is so. According to Kripke, proper names cannot have any particular sense as an essential property, nor even as loose bundle of senses (Searle). Rather, proper names can acquire sense only as an historical, contingent accretion that one can imagine having possibly been otherwise. This is view is sometimes called the "baptism" theory of proper names. Yet even on this view, to have a sense of some kind, however minimal, appears to be a general property of proper names, even if this sense extends no further than to allow one to recognize it as a proper name, even in total ignorance of its referent. Moreover, this view allows that proper names in ordinary usage do indeed have sense, albeit one that is historical rather than essential in nature, and, to this degree, at least, Frege's analysis seems to stand. In any case, informative identity statements are a reality, and any theory of proper names that cannot account for this fact will not do.

32 Consider two further analogies to the phenomenon of the informative identity statement, one drawn from the Bible, the other from rabbinic interpretation. Paul M. van Buren observes, "In scriptural parallelism, the second half of the verse is no mere subordinate commentary on the first half, but is constructed to say the same thing in other words" (According to the Scriptures [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998]), p. 66. Van Buren develops this point in way that demonstrates how the church's reflection is impoverished when it fails to read the New Testament in light of the Old. Christians, van Buren points out, typically read John 1:14 so, "And the word became flesh." Thus they omit the second half of the verse, "and pitched his tent among us." The verse's second half says "the same thing in other words," and should lead to the insight that "the Johannine story of the incarnation of the Word in Jesus is to be read in conjunction with the story of God's presence with his people in the tent of meeting, where `the LORD used to speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend' (Exod 33:11). When the scriptural parallelism is ignored, we fail to see that "even `the highest' christological themes are formulated `according. to the Scriptures.'" Another analogy: "For the rabbis no statement of scripture was haphazard or superfluous. They taught that even the two Hebrew words for God Elohim and YHWH -- were not synonyms but symbolized the different aspects of God's providence. Wherever the tetragrammaton appeared, God should be viewed as acting mercifully: where Elohim appeared, God's judgment should be understood. Between them, the two names expressed the totality of God's providence or, as they expressed it, His two Middoth or measures." Italics added. N. A. Dahl and F. Segal, "Philo and the Rabbis on the Names of God" in Journal for the Study of Judaism 9:1, 1-28. (1).

33 Luke/Acts provides a striking example of the fact that the sense of Father in the NT's narratives stems from Jesus: once Jesus has ascended, the term ceases to be used! The sole exception is found in Peter's Pentecost speech, in which he confirms the gift of the Spirit was the Father's `promise' to which Jesus referred in Luke 24:49 and Acts 1:4.) See Mowery, "The Disappearance of the Father: References to God the Father in Luke/Acts" in Encounter (Autumn 1994) 55:4, 353-358.

34 David B. Capes, Old Testament Yahweh Texts in Paul's Christology (Tübingen: J. C. B. Mohr, 1992), 114-15.

35 Claude Geffre, "Father as the Proper Name of God" in God as Father? (ed. Johannes-Baptist Metz and Edward Schillebeeckx; Concillium 143: Dogma; Edinburgh: T&T Clark; NY: Seabury, 1981), 44. Cited in M. Thompson, The Promise of the Father, 11

36 J. I. Packer, Knowing God (Downer's Grove: InterVarsity, 1973, 182-3). Cited in M. Thompson, The Promise of the Father, 11.

37 Gerhard Kittel, `abba' Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1964-1976), 1:5-6.

38 See Joachim Jeremias, The Prayers of Jesus, (Naperville, Ill.: A. R. Allenson, 1967); Edward Schillebeeckx, An Experiment in Christology, (New York: Seabury Press,1979), 256-71; Jürgen Moltmann, The Trinity and the Kingdom, (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1993), 61-96. For a valuable review of Jeremias' contribution and its subsequent history, see M. M. Thompson, The Promise of the Father, chap. 1.

39 Bruce Marshall appeals to the idea of informative identity statements to make a similar point in his essay, "Do Christians Worship the God of Israel?" in Knowing the Triune God, ed. By James Buckley and David Yeago (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2001), 231-264.

40 Abhishiktananda, Saccidananda: a Christian Approach to Advaitic Experience 2nd ed. (Delhi: ISPCK, 1984).

41 Mark Burrows takes the measure of one contemporary statement of the via negative in "At the Boundary of Imagination: Rainer Maria Rilke and the Poetics of Theological Negation," paper delivered at the Boston Theological Society in April, 1999. See also his essay "Naming the God Beyond Names" Modern Theology 9:1 (January 1993), 37-53.